key features of identity and access management

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Identity and access management, commonly shortened to IAM, is a solution for managing the permissions and digital roles of individuals within an organization. IAM solutions allow organizations to protect sensitive information by restricting and regulating access as required. IAM tools authenticate the digital identities of employees, hardware, systems, network resources, and even software applications, ensuring no data is accessed by any person or machine without proper permission. These solutions offer a framework of business processes, policies, and technologies that helps to ease the management of electronic and digital identities.

IAM software controls access to sensitive business information—with IAM, management teams can control how and by whom business information can be accessed and modified. IAM systems are used to enforce a ‘one digital identity per individual’ policy; this digital identity can be maintained, modified, and monitored throughout the ‘access lifecycle’ of any stakeholder, including employees, partners, and clients. An administrator can use IAM technology to change a user’s role, track user activities, create reports of these activities, and ensure compliance with corporate and government policies.

Identity management is used to manage the permissions attributed to specific users and groups, while access management is used to evaluate these permissions when access to specific information is being requested. The key functions of identity management include:

  • Pure identity function – Creating, managing, and deleting identities 
  • User access function – Enabling users with correct permissions to access information
  • Service function – Providing personalized, role-based, online, on-demand, and presence-based services to users
  • Identity federation – Using a central identity to authenticate a user across compatible applications, both within and outside an organization

Identity management systems deal with the creation, administration, and deployment of identifiers, credentials, and attributes, while access management systems control the permissions that are assigned to users and evaluate these permissions against identity whenever access to information is requested. A single identity is given to users across systems in order to simplify access monitoring and verification and ensure the correct assignment of access privileges. This identity helps track the activities of users from access initiation to access termination.

The components of IAM architecture include federated single sign-on, privileged user management, privileged identity management, access management, access certification, strong authentication, identity audit, entitlement management, role-based provisioning, role management, and role mining.

A key feature of IAM is federated identity management, which enables the sharing of digital IDs with trusted partners. Federated identity management is an authentication-sharing mechanism that uses the same username, password, or ID to gain access to numerous applications. Single sign-on (SSO) is a crucial aspect of federated identity management—an SSO model allows users to carry over their authenticated status from one application to another, enabling them to cooperate both within and outside an organization, such as using the systems of trusted third-party partners.

With IAM, password management, compliance reporting, system monitoring, software & signature management, and smart card & biometric access mechanisms become extremely efficient and cost-effective. When combined with a strong foundation of unified personnel data and periodic audits, the security, workflow efficiency, and employee satisfaction within an organization can be maximized.

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